As those who read my previous post might suspect, I've been thinking a lot about authenticity in the past couple of weeks. It all started with a conversation about theatre and the theatricality of commerce (exactly as pretentious and self-satisfied as it sounds, but also a lot of fun) with Scott Gould, who then suggested I read the well-known tome on the topic by James Gilmore and Joseph Pine. Authenticity is one of those ideas that takes you very quickly into the heart of something in equal parts amorphous and profound: how we mask our (prelapsarian, if you're that way inclined) sense of lack and division by cultivating and projecting originality, rootedness and integrity.
Rather unlike this polished Jools appearance, it was raw. Unpolished, vulnerable, animal, hungry, visceral, electrifying, and all the other synonyms you can conjure for that excellent word. And I don't use the term 'experience' lightly either; however disingenuous and just-moseyed-off-the-dusty-Kansas-City-street Miss Warren appeared, she was a master craftswoman of sucking-in. From her scuffed boots and centimetre-too-short seventies-upholstery kecks to her mumbling, sardonic asides, she disrupted my assumption of what a big-lunged folk-jazz diva should be, and made me actually watch and listen, on edge, unsure from one moment to the next whether she would talk or play, smile or growl, or even just manage to tune her wayward guitar.
Her busking roots shine through. The woman knows how to perform, in the most unperformative-seeming way. Used to thinking of Gaga in her tiny pants or Gary and the boys in their big top as the ultimate in showmanship, we are all the more moved when our cash pays for connection, rather than just a show.
Her excellent album Circles nonetheless totally fails to reflect how, live, Warren continually holds back the full heft of her momentous sun-soaked-into-tarmac voice, only to unleash it in a few, devastatingly emotive and unexpected moments that radiate pain and hope and pleasure through your cells. When, in the final song, she persuaded the audience to hold the baseline for her soaring counterpoint melody, it felt shockingly intimate, our feeble stream frothing against her deep, rushing river. It felt, in fact, like a rare privilege. She's clever, our Krystle. We staggered out, grateful, grinning, deprecating our own inadequacy to hide the very real buzz within.
As 'ole Pine and Gilmore would say, the most authentic folk are those who know how to best render their own authenticity. And the experience of well-rendered authenticity feels very special indeed. It is special. If we feel it, it is there, regardless whether the magician, tired and probably hungover and maybe underwhelmed by the small, work-weary British crowd, feels it too.
I'm sure she did, but then I'm sucker for the seductive seratonin high of expert sincerity.